“I Collect Words” and Other Things Gifted Humans Do

” I am a proud nerd. I read a lot. Occasionally I’ll use a weird-to-everyone-else word. The other day I used the word “guffawed” in my retelling of an event not even thinking about it being unusual at all because, well, he actually did guffaw!…Most of the time my husband will say “You’re bafflegabbing again” and ask me to define a word I just used. Guess who introduced him to the word bafflegab… I collect words like others collect Precious Moments figurines.” a blog reader

Let me tell you about gifted humans I have known.

(photo by Oscar Chevallard, Unsplash)

They have charts of the origin of the solar system as their screen savers. Buy brain specimen coasters for their birthdays. Loved BBC documentaries when they were 8 years old. Paint their living room 12 times in 4 years. Are bored at their jobs once they have mastered the tasks. Need eye masks, white noise, black out curtains, and breathing techniques to get to sleep and stay asleep. Know what you are about to say before you say it. Ran campaigns to save endangered species when they were 6. Watch the Lord of the Rings movies eleven times. Still play Dungeons and Dragons with their friends. Long for deep, loving relationships with other humans.

Do not believe they are gifted because they know how much they don’t know. Worry about life, the universe, and everything. Love The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Tirelessly meet the diverse needs of their feisty middle school students and their fellow teachers. Write letters to their future boyfriend in their fascinating journals. Engage in deep conversations with trees. Buy my books. Rescue animals, play bagpipes, fight fires, raise 2 kids, and run their small farm all at the same time. Change jobs/careers every 2-4 years. Use their medical intuition to heal others. Dance the Argentine tango. Grapple with the ethics of developing AI technologies. Grieve over losses from the climate crisis and take action for creating a more sustainable planet. Fight for justice for immigrant families and all humans. See how everything is connected. Create and appreciate beauty. Manage their existential depression and anxiety. Spend ridiculous numbers of hours in libraries and bookstores. Choose to face and heal their childhood traumas in psychotherapy. Seek answers to the world’s pressing problems. Wonder at the beauty of the light at dusk. Notice astonishing synchronicities. Cry a lot.

These are just some of the gifted (rainforest-minded) humans I have known.

Aren’t I the lucky one!


To my bloggEEs: Do you see yourself on the list? What are the signs of your giftedness? Thank you as always for being here. And thank you to the bloggEE who inspired this post. Much love to all of you. May you all continue to bafflegab.

Author: Paula Prober

I’m a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice based in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in international consulting with gifted adults and parents of gifted children. I’ve been a teacher and an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a frequent guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I’ve written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, Advanced Development Journal and online for psychotherapy dot net, Rebelle Society, Thrive, Introvert Dear, and Highly Sensitive Refuge. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, is a collection of case studies of gifted clients along with many strategies and resources for gifted adults and teens. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists is a collection of my most popular blog posts along with writing exercises for self-exploration and insight.

39 responses to ““I Collect Words” and Other Things Gifted Humans Do”

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  1. Managing Expectations and Pressure to Be a Super Achiever When You Are Gifted – YOUR RAINFOREST MIND

    […] weird because no one else you know understands string theory, adores learning new words (Are you bafflegabbing?), or can appreciate the many layers of your mind […]

  2. When You Are Gifted, Can You Tell Anyone? – YOUR RAINFOREST MIND

    […] of beauty, story teller, mathematician, HSP, analyzer, creator, engineer, nerd, intuitive, you collect words, wonderer, wanderer, seeker…You get the idea. You are not hiding the fact you are gifted. You […]

  3. BH Avatar

    Read the post, read the comments, feel like I am not the only one. Uncanny, every time. So, I picked 2.

    1) “Are bored at their jobs once they have mastered the tasks.”

    Man oh man. I have had so much trouble keeping a job for exactly this reason. I can see it coming too….while others are exalting in applying what they have learned again and again (and again and again and again) and are successful, I am just done with it and ultimately go away to start all over.
    I have thought being a detective would be cool, always following clues, always new cases…but alas, not for me.

    2) “Long for deep, loving relationships with other humans.”

    Oh my gosh yes. But on my terms. And I will always need forgiveness for dumb stuff I blurt out.
    I know I need those relationships but I am not good at relationships as I am selfish and usually muck it up.

    This RFM thing is really hard sometimes.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Yes, it can be hard. Thanks, BH!

  4. Pulp Fusion Avatar
    Pulp Fusion

    P.s. I think I’ve created a “subreddit page” (?) in G W Hayduke’s community, ‘TherapizedAnonymous’, for in-depth discussions of some of the issues addressed in your inspiring blog. I hope you approve of it (the title contains a pun), and that commenters that have more to say than is perhaps appropriate in the comment section find it useful.


    1. pprober Avatar

      Um. Probing your rainforest mind?!? 🙂

  5. Sarah Avatar

    That’s me with the words. What’s so hard for people in my family–Family of origin– my kids and husband actually do get it– is that I really don’t know which words are common and which are rare, because I spend more time reading than out in the world…and most of my friends are avid readers too. When I say a weird word unless the other person visibly reacts I don’t even know I’m doing it. I should add that I grew up in a family of chainsaws, so it’s not usually a polite response if I accidentally speak over their heads.

    I often mispronounce words because I’ve never heard them spoken and we all know you can’t guess a correct pronunciation in English. I’ve noticed this with my kids now too, and it cracks me up because they’re just like I was. They don’t believe me. At least nowadays we can quickly look pronunciation up on the internet.

    I identify with a lot of the RFM examples you bring up, but I’m not as high energy as all that. Painting a room 12 times in 4 years won’t happen around here because I’m either too busy, too lazy or too cheap to pay someone to do it. I might imagine 12 different colors, but typically, it will take me 10 years to make a decision, rather than acting on it various times. Maybe that’s just me.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, Sarah, decision making is often hard for an RFM, for sure. Love that part about mispronouncing words. Makes so much sense!

  6. Pulp Fusion Avatar
    Pulp Fusion

    Dear Paula,

    I’m still here.. I’ve started reading Nietszche’s ‘The Gay Science’. It seems to be the only cure for my lonely intellectual itch. I read this just now, and wanted to share it with you all:

    “..the great majority lacks an intellectual
    conscience – indeed, it has often seemed to me as if someone requiring such a conscience would be as lonely in the most densely populated cities as he would be in the desert.”

    “I mean: to the great majority it is not contemptible to believe this or that and to live accordingly without first becoming aware of the final and most certain reasons pro and con, and without even troubling themselves about such reasons afterwards: the most gifted men and the noblest women still belong to this ‘great majority’.”

    “But what are goodheartedness, refinement, and genius to me when the
    person possessing these virtues tolerates slack feelings in his believing and judging and when he does not consider the desire for certainty to be his inmost craving and deepest need..”

    “But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors and the whole marvellous uncertainty and ambiguity of existence without questioning, without
    trembling with the craving and rapture of questioning, without at least hating the person who questions, perhaps even being faintly amused by him – that is what I feel to be contemptible, and this is the feeling I look for first in anyone. Some folly keeps persuading me that every person has this feeling, simply as human. That is my type of injustice.”

    Thank you, as always.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Thank you. As always. Pulp Fusion.

  7. Randye Avatar

    Since I learned of your work a year or so ago, I’ve marveled at the way I finally (at 63) feel understood. This post feels like you’re inside my head and with little exception explains my whole life. Thank you 🙏

    1. pprober Avatar

      And what a lovely head it is! 🙂 Thanks for writing, Randye.

  8. Elle Avatar

    I am just gonna chime in…
    It’s rare that I cry. Oh, sure I tear up at heartstring-tugging things on the YouTubes, but I am talkin’ ’bout the “ugly cry.”
    Sometimes that deep ugly cry feels so, so, so good.
    And when it’s over and your loved ones are sitting at the dinner table, wide-eyed and bewildered at what the heck is happening because suddenly the matriarch is melting the F down over her plate of meatballs and spaghetti.
    This may or may not be a hypothetical example, I’ll never tell. But afterward the angst I may or may not have had was definitely gone.
    But (ahem) yeah, that ugly cry can cure what ails your brain sometimes.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Love your sense of humor, Elle!

  9. Elizabeth Williams Avatar
    Elizabeth Williams

    And by the time I got to “Cries a lot” I had tears in my eyes.
    The tragic gift.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Yes. <3

  10. Nichola Weise-Hermon Avatar
    Nichola Weise-Hermon

    I am wondering if anyone else out there has trouble following a navigation system while driving. When I say trouble, I don’t mean that I get confused or lost, I just can’t follow it! Do I have trust issues? Maybe, but I think it’s more likely that my brain wants to see the map so that I know what the nav is telling me is right or best. Ok, for those of you that might not be aware of this, it’s true the nav will get you there, eventually, in a pinch when you have no idea where you are going, but have you ever tried using the nav for your daily drive home? You’d be surprised at the shenanigans it will cook up!
    I read somewhere that the “gifted” brain can not follow (blindly) because it’s too busy evaluating the methodology of the directions. It’s like when someone asks a question and you question the question because you can’t answer it the way it was asked!! Ok, I know I’m getting into the weeds now, but that’s where we like to be, right? BTW, I hate when someone brings out the calculator on their phone to figure out the tip also!!!!!!!

    1. pprober Avatar

      I definitely have trouble trusting my GPS and just last week thought about getting out an old map to find my way around Portland! And I do have trust issues. 🙂 Thanks, Nichola.

    2. Clignett Avatar

      Oh, this is so true! My GPS (Google Maps that is, on my phone on the dashboard with sound through the speakers) gets it all wrong! I need to check before I leave, with reading glasses, then drive a bit in the direction it (she – I call her Mutsieflutsie – Dutch for something like “birdbrain” – very very loosely translated 🙈🤣) says I should go, which is nót the route I chose before I left. Turn around when I realize that, and go my own way in the direction that I need to go. Then she (Mutsieflutsie) says I need to turn around again (“no, Mutsieflutsie, we’re actually going in the right direction now, come on! Keep up!”), and just when I think I should just drive without her and reset her when we’re on the highway for example, she comes around… “Finally! You came to your senses! Muts!” So it’s a comfortable ride, until we come close to HER exit.. “No, Mutsieflutsie, the next one! I’m sure of it!” So I take the next one, she tries to get me to turn around again, I persist, she comes around, and we arrive. There’s a routine in that which I find so funny! Not when I accidentally take her route, I’ve been on back ways with no possibility to turn around, farms everywhere, Indie telling me he’s not amused very loudly (and in a car the Beagle sound is LOUD!), finally after 1 hour driving these back roads, I see a sign “highway”. Indie, we’re back on track! Let Mutsieflutsie find us again, but here we ho! Whhhiiihhhoooo!! (Indie either “Woohoohoohoo or hmph🐶🤣).

      On the way back it’s the same drama. Only this time I know how to get home, just need directions to the highway. Which she still can mess up.. sigh.. driving with GPS is nót easy! 🤦🏽‍♀️

      And lots of comments to Mutsieflutsie, that’s for sure! 🤣

      1. Nichola Weise-Hermon Avatar
        Nichola Weise-Hermon

        OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I could not have described it better myself!! This is exactly my experience, and proof that this is not about arrogance or the inability to subordinate one’s will. It’s about the gifted mind and the fact that we know things like how the GPS does not offer the best and most efficient route. The gift is that the human brain is the ultimate computer and we need to give it a chance to do the things it was designed to do. I sometimes think the flaws in the things that are supposed to produce greater efficiency are put there to nurture our rebel spirits like the glitches in the matrix.

    3. Sarah Avatar

      Ha! I often have to double-check just to make sure we’re still on the correct route to the correct destination. I know our city well but use the app often to make sure I have the most direct route. And the best one for the traffic patterns of the moment, which are less predictable now that half the people are doing WFM on different days.

  11. Nimue Avatar

    I especially love the words from other languages that cannot be directly translated into English.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, yes, Nimue!

  12. Sara Cash Avatar
    Sara Cash

    How I long to guffaw with this bafflegabbler! Words are such lovely things, each precious and multifaceted and rich with meaning and nuance and history. I love finding just the right one when I am writing! Really. I want a word club.

    And while I am waxin’ lyrical, I will add to your list my soul deep excitement when at age 12, I could start watching the US congress on TV. It was heaven! While others necked and picked their zits and played Pacman, I watched Tip and Newt and Byrd weave their magic and wield their power for hours, starting with the Iran-Contra Hearings.

    1. pprober Avatar

      Absolutely! A bafflegabbler club!:)

  13. Deborah P Avatar
    Deborah P

    I loved this post. It drove me to think back on my how my childhood was so different from that of my peers and even my sister. The girls all went through their phase of playing with dolls and other girly things. My fascination was with reading science, history, and other reference books. My favorite things to do were crossword puzzles and study astronomy. Even now, I love the books and watching the evening sky. It is awesome to just behold the moon and stars. Paula, I am so glad for this site and your explanations about the rainforest mind. Now I no longer feel isolated by others around me who think I’m just ‘off’ for being this way. Thank you!

    1. pprober Avatar

      And thank you for being here and sharing your experiences, Deborah!

    2. Sara Cash Avatar
      Sara Cash

      I am reading and watching, too, my sister

  14. Elle Avatar

    Oh my word, that’s me in the quote! I am so totally chuffed!

    I identify with your description so much too. “Paint their living room 12 times in 4 years” I lost track of how many times I’ve tried to redo my bathroom over the years. I can’t seem to get it right and yet it’s so unimportant and yet it’s fun. How many homes have I toured on Zillow and Realtor? Thousands! Home and environment is important to me, apparently.

    If I identify with so much of your description of all the gifted humans you have known then I guess I must identify and accept the label of being gifted. I held off accepting that label because being gifted sounded too good to be true. I am terrible at so many things mathematically related.

    I always wanted to be smart and creative.

    No, scratch that.

    What I mean is: I always wanted to believe what others (my mother, a therapist in the 80s, my husband etc) have said about me most of my life– “You’re smart.” Maybe I’ll just start believing now because why not?

    1. pprober Avatar

      Believe it, Elle. And be chuffed!

  15. Carol Hatfield Avatar
    Carol Hatfield

    I love your posts, and am very grateful for them ❤️ It is SO fabulous the feel validated and understood and appreciated!! Last night, on a beautiful evening, I sat in the grass (I love to sit on the ground) in my back yard with my kitties and cried. The tears came from a VERY deep place and the emotions were super charged and enormous. Because the experience was so wonderful and I did not want to ever forget it. I logged it in my book of “taking it with me when I go”. That happens a lot. Yes, I talk to trees all the time, as well as other plants and animals. I even talk to my instruments (guitars, flutes, basses, harp). Sometimes I can feel myself expand to the other side of the planet because I want to hug it ❤️🌏And yes, I’ve had lots of jobs 😊 Looking for a new one right now! (Praying for my dream job.) I am beginning to embrace who and how I am, with no apology (and you have helped! And I have typed and retyped this comment a bunch of times – lol! )💖✨

    1. pprober Avatar

      Oh, yes, Carol. Cry on! 🙂

      1. Clignett Avatar

        Oh yes! Hell yes, if I may say so?

        I make up words, talk to animals (especially dogs and birds), talk to trees, plants, lamps (that’s in my house, spirits of my family can contact me that way), see how and when everything is connected, talk to the moon, the sun, gods and goddesses.

        I’ve just asked Saint August and the gods and goddesses to help me remember where something is, I can’t remember for the life of me. Turned my house upside down, started to panick, and now I’ll just wait if Saint August or/and gods and goddesses can help. It’s an important thing – my father’s ring – so I’d be devastated if I’ve lost it or if it had been stolen from me.. it’s the only thing I have from him. Don’t know if that’s something that applies here, but it’s on my mind (a lot these days, somehow).

        I’ve banned myself from bookstores, I need to read first. I have bookcases full of books which I still want to read, so no room for new ones. Although I’d love to have them, I’m “not allowed” from myself.. disciplining myself. Hm.. tough one! Recently did buy a new book, because it’s a good one for understanding my past (I hope!) – “What I wish I knew” by Amelia Kelley and Kendall Ann Combs. Not your average stuff.. but, essentially hopefully as part of the process that’s been started with psychotherapy.

        I’m creative, can see in 3D, can make a small room look spacious, I used to love to draw, paint and create things. I want to pick up photography again, promised myself that next year will be the year for that.

        I need blackout curtains, white noise (preferably the snoring of Indie 🐶), and medication to go to sleep and stay asleep. And my sleepy tea, works like a charm thankfully! I’d put on my eye mask if it didn’t freak Indie out 🙄.

        But what strikes me the most is that I so want to be able to cry but can’t manage to do so somehow. Maybe it’s a thing from childhood, when I got told over and over again that I shouldn’t cry so much, maybe I’ve shed all my tears over the years already? I can feel it bubbling up, and immediately my body (or brain) starts to shut it down. Can’t seem to get past that feeling nor can I control my body (or brain) to not shut it down.

        I can feel what someone is about to say without them saying it, and I can feel their emotions as well. It’s been a bumpy road trying to decipher whether these emotions are mine or theirs, still have trouble sometimes to feel where it belongs. But learning, as always. Checking in with myself helps (normally, now at this moment not so much – “gods and goddesses, Saint August, please help me remember?”).

        The list goes on and on. And I still wonder whether I’m gifted or not so much. It still feels uncomfortable to say that about myself..
        I know a lot, but there’s a whole world out there that I don’t know anything about. Not only because I don’t follow the news closely, but because there’s so much to know, to read, to research. In all fields! So so much! And I really want to know it all, but it’s a slippery slope on Google, link after link after link, and when I’m 3 hours in I have to follow the links back again to see if I missed something 🙈.. my phone apparently takes track of my hours on internet, gives me a message every week to let me know how many hours I’ve spent searching.. creepy thing! 😅

        1. Clignett Avatar

          Oh, and what I also need to sleep is my weighted blanket (10-15 kg), and my electrical under blanket. Together with a 4 season duvet, and that’s just now. It’s not even freezing outside! 🧐🙈 And of course waking up and finding Indie fast asleep next to me, snoring, smacking, and just close to me. 🐶🥰 Moaning when I want to get up, because he’s so comfy 🥰🥰

          1. Sara Cash Avatar
            Sara Cash

            Clignett, I would like to say to you that I had profound sensitivities as you describe in my younger life. I have found with aging and the passage of time, that most of them have diminished to bearable, gone, or manageable. I hope this happens for you. I just wanted to put that suggestion in your beautiful mind…

        2. pprober Avatar

          So many great examples, clignett. It is quite possible that early trauma around crying might still have a hold on you. Thank you for sharing.

        3. Clignett Avatar

          Oh, dear… 🙈🙈🙈

          I’ve mixed up my Saints..
          It should be Saint Anthony..

          So, again, I’m asking dear holy Saint Anthony and gods and goddesses to help me remember.

          Sorry for the confusion! 🙈🙈

    2. Sara Cash Avatar
      Sara Cash

      Find chi lel chigong, where in meditation ones actually expands out to embrace as much of the universe as possible. “Think space, Think body, Body harmonize with Chi” It is marvelous

      1. pprober Avatar

        Sounds cool, Sara.

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